The Word of God is that unchangeable yet inexhaustible standard of truth which has served as a reliable map of life for thousands of years. Map of Life is a feature of Sky View where we garner whatever insights or directives Scripture has to offer (if people like it, we'll post this series a couple of times a week). As the saying goes, praying is our way of speaking to God, reading Scripture is God's way of speaking to us. Indeed our relationship with God is a two way street. To take at least 15-30 minutes a day and meditate on the Word of God. It is food for the soul and light for the mind. Slowly but surely, this spiritual exercise is bound to yield its fruit. You will then notice a difference about the way you see God, yourself and the world around you!
Map of Life: The effects of the Spirit’s initiative
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert…
And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Sky View Comments:
Driving him out to the desert to confront the devil and traveling in haste to serve a relative in need! These two "errands" are the effects of the Spirit’s initiative. To be sure, with the decent of the Spirit on Our Lord in the Gospel of Mark and on Our Lady in the Gospel of Luke, immediate action is taken. And in both cases, risks and challenges await. Nevertheless, when God gives a gift, especially the greatest of His Gifts- the Holy Spirit, He expects a return on it. What is equally true is this: confronting evil and the love of neighbor are inseparably united. That is, by Jesus conquering the Evil One by resisting his temptations in the desert and when the Blessed Virgin’s traveled to her cousin’s Elizabeth house in haste- all this immediately following the decent of the Spirit –a pattern was traced out for all Christians.
If there are two things requiring immediate action- if time is ever the enemy -it is the purging of evil from our midst (cf. I Corinthians 5:13) and meeting the needs of our neighbor. Both are an act of love. Both are the result of the Spirit’s decent. And to be sure, delaying action in both cases can be costly. Yet, sometimes, upon receiving God’s Gift, we delay action for in any number of reasons. Perhaps we count the cost or we tend to take comfort in mere resolutions. In any event, as we can see with Jesus and His Mother, after the Spirit descended there was no time to waste.
You can rest assure there are times when God calls you to a mission there will be little time for preparation. This is to show that we are to rely totally on Him. In fact, it is not uncommon that when God calls us to act an immediate response is needed. Recall when Jesus called upon St. Matthew to follow Him. The Apostle immediately dropped everything, even his profession, so that he could do what he was called to do. And soonthereafter, when a would-be disciple asked Jesus if he could bury his father first, the answer was, in so many words, “no.” Indeed, when the Spirit comes to inspire some deed or undertaking, there may be little time to do what is ordinarily an important duty.
With the decent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus and Mary there was, as we have discussed, immediate action that followed. But there is something else to consider. Some may not think of it this way but preaching the Gospel and giving witness involves, indeed, must include, the exorcism of evil. That’s right! This too is an effect of the Spirit's initiative. Purging evil and the love of neighbor in action are inseparably bound up with one another. The former presupposes the latter. For Jesus, Satan had to be confronted and defeated before he could save people from their sins. The forty days of self-denial and the rebuffing Satan’s temptations was but the first step towards this end.
And as for the Blessed Virgin, traveling to the hills of Judea to visit and serve her cousin, St. Elizabeth, was a hazardous 2-3 day journey. This was no small act of charity; and to be sure, it paid off. Upon Mary’s greeting, the souls of St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist were purified from sin by the Holy Spirit. Even without the drama that accompanied Our Lord's contest with the devil, what the Holy Spirit did through the words of Mary resulted in nothing less the evil's defeat. In addition, when little John the Baptist was circumcized, the mouth of St. Zechariah was opened because divine punishment had been remitted. There is little doubt, then, that these two respective missions of Our Lord (in Mark) and Our Lady (in Luke) are closely united.
St. James speaks to both effects of the Spirit's decent in the following passage: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (1:27) We are to be unstained by the world because the Ruler of the World, as Our Lord taught us, is Satan. In any case, if the Life of Christ is to take hold in a soul, community or nation then doing good deeds is insufficient; we must also avoid evil and remove it when necessary. Do we not remove old and chipped away paint before we apply new paint to the house? And do we not uproot weeds before we lay seed to the ground? Yes we do. But in recent decades we have fallen under the illusion that we can do acts of charity- that we can serve the needs of our neighbor and the poor – and that we can win souls to Christ without casting out the devil. Our Lord shows us, to the contrary, that just as evil spirits need to be safeguarded against, so too do unrepentant sinners.
St. John the Apostle, who is known for his emphasis on Christian love, calls attention to this truth in his Second Letter, “Anyone who is so ‘progressive’ as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him; for whoever greets him shares in his evil works.” Yet, in his First Letter he said, "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God."(I John 4:7) To refuse admission in our house (i.e. Church) to the unrepentant "progressive" and to love one another are seen today in many Catholic circles as incompatible. But we know the New Testament teaches, in fact, that the purging of evil and the love of neighbor are to be concurrent in any ministry worthy of the name. Indeed, upon His visitations, the Holy Spirit helps us to keep these two things in tension. And just as important, He inspires within us a readiness to do both.